MILO — Walking along a forested section of the town’s largely empty business park, David Maynard glances down the railroad tracks toward the Maine coast, some 55 miles away.
A proposal to deepen the shipping channel in Searsport would bring good-paying jobs to Milo and other towns in Maine’s economically depressed interior, he says. Those rails could transport wood products to Searsport, where they would be loaded onto ships bound for customers in Europe, he says.
“The railroad connection to Searsport is a very big part of what gives Milo opportunity and hope for the future,” says Maynard, the town manager.
Maynard’s views are shared by officials in Limestone and Millinocket, which also are linked by rail to Searsport and where companies have discussed building plants that would use Searsport to import supplies and export products.
In the midcoast, though, where the economy is built on the lobster fishery and tourism, the $12 million dredging project is a source of worry. More than 900,000 cubic yards of sediment would be dug up and dumped in Penobscot Bay just southwest of Turtle Head on Islesboro, a pastoral island that has hosted an elite summer colony since the Gilded Age.
Opponents of the project say it could unearth mercury, a legacy of a chemical plant that once operated upriver in Orrington, pollute the bay and wreak havoc on the thriving lobster fishery.
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